MILWAUKEE -- The Pittsburgh farm system has enjoyed massive representation in the Minor League All-Star circuit, with 19 players honored in their respective leagues.
That list does not include Altoona's Gorkys Hernandez, who will play for the World team in Sunday's Futures Game. It does include the other Pirates representative in that game, pitcher Bryan Morris, one of a league-leading eight players selected from Bradenton to the Florida State League All-Star team (Nathan Adcock, Tony Sanchez, Noah Krol, Jeff Locke, Quincy Latimore, Brock Holt and Jeremy Farrell).
Chase d'Arnaud was named as a replacement to the Eastern League All-Star team, joining Double-A Altoona teammates Derek Hankins, Rudy Owens, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison and Hector Gimenez.
Indianapolis will be represented in the Triple-A All-Star Game by Erik Kratz.
Class A West Virginia placed Ramon Cabrera, Aaron Baker, David Rubinstein and Nathan Baker on the South Atlantic League All-Star team.
Many current, past ties to Futures Game
MILWAUKEE -- With a young and talented nucleus of players, the Pirates can feel pretty good about what the future has in store.
All of baseball will have its eye on the future Sunday when the game's best Minor Leaguers, including two in the Pirates' organization, compete in the XM Radio All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim.
The Pirates' roster features eight alumni from the annual event, and the organization hopes pitcher Bryan Morris and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez will likewise reach the top tier of the sport in the coming years.
"I was very honored and privileged to be out there and play with some of those guys," said infielder Pedro Alvarez, one of two current Pirates who played in the 2009 game in St. Louis. "They made us feel real comfortable and at home. It was definitely a lot of fun."
Last year's game was plagued by a long rain delay. Pitcher Brad Lincoln was among those on the Futures rosters playing Frisbee in the Busch Stadium outfield to pass the time.
"That was tough to come back from, especially as a pitcher," said Lincoln, who will start Sunday's finale against the Milwaukee Brewers. "You start off on one level and then get tight. But we made the best of it, sat there and talked and played a little Frisbee."
Lincoln said the highlight of the experience was bonding with future opponents and teammates.
"It was a bigger scenario for all of us, playing in a place like that," he said. "It's something we'll always remember and made us look forward to playing in those cities. I had a lot of fun with it and will always remember it."
Other current Pirates who saw action in the Futures Game: Andrew McCutchen (2008), Jose Tabata (2006), Neil Walker (2006), Lastings Milledge (2005), Paul Maholm (2005) and Andy LaRoche (2005).
Walker maturing into steady presence
MILWAUKEE -- Neil Walker entered Saturday's game in Milwaukee with an eight-game hitting streak, hitting safely in 13 of 14 games.
His .289 average ranked fourth among National League rookies, and he has reached safely in 27 of 34 games since his recall from Triple-A Indianapolis.
"A lot of it is the development has been working [in the Minor Leagues], not only physically but mentally," Pirates manager John Russell said. "He went through a lot. We challenged him in a lot of ways to be more of a consistent all-around player, not just swinging the bat. This year, moving him around positions and the time it involved and the consistency with his swing ... I think he grew a lot.
"You look at him and Steve Pearce, they really grasped hold of what we wanted them to be. They both made a very nice adjustment and put forth a commitment to be more of an all-around player."
Russell admired Walker's progress at second base -- a position to which he switched after seeing action as a third baseman last year.
"After a couple workouts, I didn't see an issue at all," Russell said. "You can still tell with some of his turns and some of the things around the bag, he still needs more reps and experience in there. As he continues to grow, he's going to get even better, which is fine because he's pretty good right now."
Minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, who appeared in the Futures Game in 2007 and 2008, will be the seventh player to appear in three such events. He joins current Major Leaguers Edwin Encarnacon and Shin Soo-Choo as well as Carlos Carrasco, Justin Huber, Seung Song and Merkin Valdez. ... The Pirates paid tribute to Hispanic players with "Piratas" jerseys on Saturday at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Brewers wore "Cerveceros" jerseys as part of their annual homage. ... Pirates manager John Russell said he would evaluate the rotation alignment for games after the All-Star break once he reviewed Zach Duke's rehabilitation outing on Saturday. Duke was scheduled to throw five innings or 65 pitches for Double-A Altoona in his second rehab start as he recovers from a left elbow pronator strain, and he presumably will pitch again on Friday when the Pirates welcome Houston in the first game of the season's second half.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.